Navigating the Path to Becoming a Fitness Presenter
Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of American Fitness Magazine.
As a group fitness instructor or personal trainer, you excel at leading and educating. Have you ever fantasized about taking your expertise beyond the confines of the studio? Take a moment to recall an engaging presenter at the last fitness education event you attended. This person—probably a fitness industry veteran with a passion for educating fellow fitness professionals—had experience and credentials, communicated well, and captured the group’s attention. Did you walk away thinking you, too, might like to be a “trainer of the trainers”? Many fitness professionals easily envision themselves on the stage, but the path to making it a reality has many steps.
Begin the journey by reviewing your qualifications, along with the pros and cons of being a presenter or master trainer.
Your topics and qualifications. What do you want to present, and what, exactly, is your area of expertise? Just about any aspect of group fitness is fair game: functional training, active aging, mind-body, recovery, prechoreographed programs, business, leadership, aquatic fitness, and evergreen topics such as step aerobics and indoor cycling. Is your knowledge appropriate for those who are new to the fitness industry, for seasoned pros or for both?
Next, look at your qualifications. You will need to have a current nationally recognized fitness certification—your NASM/AFAA certification is a perfect ally. Sometimes you need a degree in your field of expertise or a minimum number of years in the fitness industry.
Advantages and considerations. After thinking of what you can offer, give equal weight to what you will gain and how those advantages blend with your lifestyle. Presenting can expand your network, build your resumé and develop your communication skills. Erin Scott, 2018 Beachbody® LIVE Master Trainer of the Year, from Fairhope, Alabama, gets to live her passion of sharing fitness and building relationships with new group fitness instructors. “It’s an opportunity to educate the future of fitness,” she says.
Fitness presenting often provides the opportunity to travel. It’s very exciting to visit new cities and experience different fitness facilities. But a presenter is usually paid only for the event, not for travel time on either end. How far are you willing to drive, or how many hours do you want to spend in airports? Most fitness education events are held on the weekend. Contemplate what you will miss doing with your family and friends, or what classes and clients you might have to give up if you’re no longer available on Saturdays and Sundays. If you work during the week, calculate the number of hours presenting and travel will add to your workload.
One of the most rewarding aspects of presenting is meeting many other fitness professionals. They have intriguing stories of fitness journeys and share a common interest with you.
You may also have repeat attendees, which can lead to an expanded network or even friendships. But what if you have an unhappy customer? Anticipate how you will handle a participant who does not get what she expects from the event (but touch base with the event organizer first).
Are you still in? You can present education that you’ve created, or you can represent an established fitness product or brand. Either approach may make you eligible to present at a conference.
Create Your Own Workshops
If you have a unique topic or unique intellectual property, develop your own educational offerings. Keep in mind, however, that you are responsible for every aspect, from conception to presentation. How big is your fitness network? Are there enough places in a wide geographical area to hold your events? There is a finite number of fitness professionals in any one region, so beware of oversaturating the market. In addition, how are your marketing skills? You need to spread the word about the events and get people excited enough to register. If you plan to present long-term, you’ll need to continually develop new content to get repeat customers.
One way to reach more participants is to offer web-based education in addition to in-person events. You can develop a webinar or an online program or offer a live workshop that people participate in virtually. Ponder whether you have the technological skills and equipment to go this route.
Fitness professionals are more likely to register for an event if they get continuing education credits, so the next step is to become a continuing education provider. Develop clear objectives and an outline for each workshop. The content must be credible and in a relevant subject area, and the presenter needs to have appropriate credentials. Fitness certification agencies have provider applications on their websites. Carefully review the yearly fees and the deadlines for each agency and type of workshop. You’ll need to renew your status each year. You’ll also need to keep attendance records in case participants lose their certificates of completion.
Think about what you will charge. You aren’t just covering the expenses of the workshop and continuing education credits; you also need to factor in hotels, flights, meals and rental cars or mileage. How do you put a price on your time? Determine the overall return on investment from the whole process.
Become a Representative
Presenting for an established fitness product or brand is another option. Most of the educational content is created by the company or organization, not the presenter or master trainer. The company has the intellectual property, the outline and the objectives and is usually approved as a continuing education provider. In addition, the company often has name recognition, which leads fitness professionals to register for an event regardless of the presenter.
Look for presenter requirements or applications on company websites so you can see what education or certification is needed. It’s common for companies to require applicants to have completed the company’s education events, to have taught that modality for a minimum number of years and to submit a teaching video. After you submit your application, you—along with likely hundreds of other fitness professionals—can hope to be selected for an interview or audition. Organizations are not looking for professionals who meet the minimum requirements; they want people who shine. Do your ambition and desire stand out? Can you “edutain”—meaning, can you offer excellent education while holding the audience’s attention?
If you are chosen to apprentice, you’ll begin a process that can take several months. Expect to attend training events at your own expense. You might present at an educational event with a more experienced presenter, who will evaluate you before you’re approved to lead on your own.
Once you’re a representative, how do you find presenter work? Here’s one possibility: A program manager at a fitness facility contacts a company’s events director (or a person in a similar position) to inquire about hosting requirements, types of certifications and workshops offered, and prospective dates. The company assigns an available presenter; someone who is geographically close to the host site may be chosen in order to reduce travel costs. The company and the host site are primarily responsible for marketing the event.
Other companies require the presenter to find the host sites, set up the dates, market the event and, sometimes, handle the registrations. The size of your network, your relationships with other fitness professionals and the number of other presenters who live in the same region and teach the same content will affect your success in this scenario.
Compensation and travel costs also vary. Some presenters earn a flat fee per event, and others are paid based on enrollment. A company may use a sliding pay scale to encourage presenters to work more hours and get more attendees. Some companies pay all travel costs, while others give the presenter a lump sum that includes travel costs.
Depending on the organization, there may be additional benefits for the presenters. “Presenters are offered resources to grow professionally, such as online development or in-person events,” says Scott. Some companies arrange for presenters to network regularly with each other to create a “family” atmosphere, and others may offer free continuing education credits or waive certification renewal fees.
If you’ve decided that the above options are not for you, but you still have a desire to speak publicly or educate, think about local opportunities. A hometown news station may need a fitness expert, or you can approach your fitness facility’s program manager about having you develop in-house workshops for the staff. More possibilities: Start a YouTube channel, ask to be a speaker at a civic organization, or write an article for an industry publication.
Fitness is always changing, and the industry needs passionate, knowledgeable professionals to share the information. There is definitely a place for you!
About The Author: Sarah Schrenk, MS, was a presenter for a national certification company for 8 years. She has also presented her own content at collegiate fitness conferences and written for American Fitness and IDEA Health & Fitness Association’s Fitness Journal.